By NITZ ARANCON and LITO RULONA
with EDWIN IYO and BEN SERRANO, Correspondents
THE National Police in Northern Mindanao yesterday went on red alert as the government stepped up security and launched pursuit operations against communist rebels who snatched three police officers and two soldiers in different provinces in Region 10 and Caraga over the weekend.
Chief Supt. Lyndel Desquitado, police director for Region 10, ordered the police in Northern Mindanao to go on “full red alert,” and intensified security measures in the region in close coordination with the military.
At Camp Evangelista, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., 4th Infantry Division commander, ordered pursuit operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who captured two soldiers in Agusan del Norte, and three others in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.
Camp Alagar spokesman Supt. Surki Sereñas said the police were exerting best efforts to bring back SPO4 Rene Rombo, SPO1 Warren Hansol Coñales, and PO3 Edwin Castor.
Allan Juanito, NPA spokesperson for North Central Mindanao, said rebels caught a retired officer and a policeman but decided to free them out to pity.
Juanito said rebels captured retired SPO2 Orlando Magamay in Bukidnon but he was subsequently released because he was sickly. He said they also stopped and nearly took one SPO1 Gilbert Aguiman in Talisayan but he was freed because his son pleaded to the group and explained that his father needed medical attention in Cagayan de Oro.
Talisayan police chief Senior Insp. Cecilio Orcullo said some 200 rebels were in Talisayan on Sunday, and at least 40 manned a roadblock where SP04 Rombo and SPO1 Aguiman were stopped.
No one was hurt in Talisayan. Town mayor Rommel Maslog said the NPA controlled an area in the municipality for almost one hour, causing many people to panic especially when rebels started stopping vehicles.
“The situation is back to normal now,” said Maslog.
Juanito said the soldiers and policemen were captured by rebels as a result of roadblocks in Northern Mindanao and Caraga.
SPO4 Rombo, a member of the Kinoguitan town police, was captured by the NPA at a roadblock in Barangay Mandahilag, Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, around 6 am on Sunday. Rebels took Rombo’s two 9mm pistols, and a caliber .45 pistol.
SPO1 Coñales of the Impasug-ong police in Bukidnon, PO3 Castor of the Wa-o police in Lanao del Sur, and retired Cagayan de Oro police officer Magamay, were captured in Impasug-ong town.
Rebels also seized at a roadblock two soldiers from the 23rd Infantry Battalion in in Purok 3, Lower Olave, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.
Capt. Patrick Martinez, 4th ID spokesman, identified the capured soldiers as Pfcs. Glenn Autria and Diven Abion Tawide.
Martinez said the military would press kidnapping charges against the rebels in Agusan del Norte.
Rebels in Caraga simultaneously conducted roadblocks as early as Saturday in the towns of Carmen, Las Nieves, and Buenavista in Agusan del Norte. They also set up roadblocks in Sitio Mat-i, Barangay Tungao in Butuan City where, just like in Misamis Oriental, they distributed electionelated leaflets.
Martinez said a 10-minute firefight in Buenavista forced rebels to withdraw.
“Tumong sa maong mga checkpoint ang pagpatuman sa mga rebolusyonaryong palisiya lambigit sa kondukta sa reaksyonaryong eleksyon. Aron mahimong hapsay ang pagpangampanya sulod sa mga natarang gerilya, kinahanglang hugot nga mokoordina sa mga hingtungdang teritoryal nga komand sa matag erya ug mosubay ang mga kandidato ug ilang mga tigkampanya sa mga rebolusyonaryong palisiya,” reads part of a statement released by Juanito.
Chief Supt. Desquitado ordered investigations into the abductions, and the NPA’s act of setting up roadblocks in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.
Desquitado also ordered the police in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental to closely coordinate with the families of the captives, and to start “clearing and hot pursuit operations.”
He ordered the police in these provinces to set up more checkpoints, and to step up intelligence information gathering.
Sereñas said Camp Alagar has assured the families of the captives that it was doing its best to resolve the crisis.